By Matthew Rothschild on December 14, 2010

A Virginia judge’s decision to throw out a central plank of the health insurance reform law underscores how ill considered was the Obama plan.

Forcing people to buy coverage from costly, unreliable and often unscrupulous private insurance companies was, in fact, a coercive approach, as Judge Henry Hudson ruled. And it was one that the insurance companies loved, because they were guaranteed tens of millions of new customers whom they could gouge.

By ruling this approach unconstitutional, Hudson has set up a showdown at the Supreme Court, since other judges have ruled the mandate constitutional. It’s unclear how the Supremes will referee this one, but I wouldn’t bet the hospital that the conservative majority will uphold that part of the Obama law.

And if Roberts, Scalia, et. al., reject it, the Obama hope to limit health care costs would be dashed.

“Without the requirement that everyone be included, the risk pools are subject to adverse selection (only those with greater health care needs enroll),” says Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow at Physicians for a National Health Program. As a result, he says, premiums would “skyrocket.”

Rather than coercing everyone into the private insurance market, Obama should have proposed universal, comprehensive, and affordable health care, which is provided, as a right, to all citizens.

This Medicare For All program—or, at a minimum, Medicare For All Who Want It—would not have been the boondoggle to the private insurance companies that the current law is.

And it would have been impervious to court challenges.

“After almost half a century of success, only a fool would challenge the constitutionality of Medicare,” says Dr. McCanne.

There may be a couple of fools on the Supreme Court who would try. But it’s unlikely there would be five.

Obama chose, however, to maintain the system of private insurance. He imposed no federal limits on what insurance companies can charge, so they are already able to raise rates exorbitantly. And if “everybody in” is ruled unconstitutional, you can expect your rates to become totally unaffordable very soon, if they aren’t already.

At which point, the American public will have to rise up and demand what Obama should have given us already, and what other advanced countries already have: Medicare for All

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Why a Primary Challenge to Obama Is a Bad Idea."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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